We continue our look at the business of writing with another chat with an author who wrote about business as an integral part of their stories. Meet Kathryn Maeglin who wrote A Hunka Hunka Nursing Love, a humorous and touching look at the challenge of running a business while caring for an elderly parent.
Kathryn shares her thoughts on work and writing and where the two collide –
Like it or not, what we choose to do for a living says a lot about who we are and how our culture perceives us. That’s why I believe the occupation of a novel’s main character (protagonist) is very important.
When I first conceived my novel A Hunka Hunka Nursing Love, I began with this question: Wouldn’t it be cool if there were a health care agency with hot male nurses who did house calls? My thoughts then naturally led to a businesswoman who would create such an agency, and my protagonist, Valerie Palka, was “born.”
I wanted Valerie to be savvy and confident enough to start such a business, so I made her the owner of a successful chain of child care centers. I myself had never run a business that employed others, but I spent the last 10 years of my journalism career as the editor of newspaper sections specifically for women. In that capacity, I interviewed and wrote about many highly successful career women. That experience taught me a lot about the realities of being a female entrepreneur.
Not every novel needs to go into the details of the protagonist’s occupation. But when you consider that on most days, about one-third of an adult’s time is spent at work, you can see why it’s important to include career-related information to create a well-rounded character. In A Hunka Hunka Nursing Love, being the owner of two companies was an integral part of who Valerie was and how her story unfolded.
Making a character’s occupation part of the story can also help the writer and the reader understand what makes the character tick and how s/he might act in a given situation. For example, if an accountant were asked to give a speech, s/he would probably react a lot differently from the way a politician would react. I’m sure you know which one would probably be drooling and which one would likely be ready to hurl!
What effect does including career information have on a romance novel? I should point out that A Hunka Hunka Nursing Love is women’s fiction with romantic elements, which means the story focuses primarily on the woman’s journey rather than the romance. But romance is a big part of the story because Valerie falls in love with one of her employees. The fact that employer-employee romances are fraught with all kinds of potential problems adds depth to the plot.
Because so many romances begin in the workplace, a character’s occupation can be a natural catalyst for a love story. We humans also tend to categorize and evaluate potential mates based on their livelihood. You won’t find too many female protagonists falling for sanitation engineers! (But thank God we have them!)
One interesting thing I discovered in writing A Hunka Hunka Nursing Love is that authors these days truly have to view themselves as entrepreneurs to survive in the tumultuous and highly competitive publishing world. It’s easy for authors to fall into the “workaholism” trap that plagues Valerie. I speak from experience! And yes, I definitely see the irony there.
I’m hard at work now on my next novel, which features a woman who’s rethinking her career options after being laid off. She’s also a breast cancer survivor who’s obsessed with doing everything on her bucket list, including finding Mr. Right, and her f*ck-it list, meaning things she’s been reluctant to do because of what others might think.
Whatever you do, at work or at play, I wish you well. And thanks for hosting me, Kathy!
My pleasure, Kathryn! For more on Kathryn’s work, follow her blog at http://www.kathrynmaeglin.com/
Imagine a visiting-nurse service with hot young guys as caregivers. What golden girl wouldn’t dig that?
Valerie Palka is a savvy businesswoman who is obsessed with keeping her elderly mom, Helen, safe from all the lethal disasters that can befall widows living alone. Helen thinks the workaholic Valerie should focus on having as much luck in the bedroom as she does in the boardroom. But when Helen takes a spill and is rushed to the ER, a handsome male nurse, Keith Nuber, strikes her fancy, and she tells her daughter, “If you could get a handsome devil like that to take care of me, I’d be willing to consider it.” So Valerie creates a care agency, Home Health Hunks, staffed by attractive younger men.
Valerie’s idea is filled with potential . . . and potholes. As she navigates the tricky road to satisfying her mom as well as her own ambition, she finds herself falling for one of her employees—Keith—and is forced to examine her beliefs about the true meaning of success.